How to Install Fedora on the Chromebook Pixel

This is a how-to guide for installing Fedora 20 on the Chromebook Pixel. Fedora is a community-supported distribution of Linux, sharing a codebase with the commercially-provided RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux). For those more familiar with Ubuntu, you’ll notice that Fedora is a RPM distro, so the system it uses to maintain packages differs from its Debian-based counterparts. Technical aspects aside, we were impressed with Fedora’s stability and driver support for the Pixel, with components like the backlit keyboard, trackpad, audio, touchscreen, and even the built-in webcam working “out of the box.”

Fedora logoBy following the steps below, you will boot the Fedora installation image from a Live USB, and install a persistent version to another USB drive. This procedure should not affect your internal SSD, which stores Chrome OS by default.

This guide was created with advanced users in mind; Please proceed with caution, and backup your files.

Fedora 20 installed on the Chromebook Pixel
Fedora 20 installed on the Chromebook Pixel

Things you’ll need

  • A developer unlocked Chromebook Pixel – here’s a how-to for entering developer mode.
  • 2 blank USB drives
    • Live USB – 2 GB or larger drive, needed during the installation
    • Install destination – 8 GB or larger drive (16 GB+ recommended)
      • Fedora is ~4 GB installed – You’ll also need 500 MB for the boot partition, 1 – 2 GB is recommended (but optional) for swap, and free space for data, programs, and system updates.
      • While the Pixel only has USB 2.0 ports, using a USB 3.0 drive is better because it will maximize the read/write speeds available, thus improving performance. Here are some high capacity USB 3.0 drives you could consider.
  • 64-bit Fedora .ISO, downloaded from fedoraproject.org
  • Win32 Disk Imager, for creating the installation USB on Windows

Step-by-step Instructions

  1. Download the latest 64-bit Fedora .ISO and create a Live USB using the Win32 Disk Imager, or an equivalent tool on your platform (the dd command can be used in a Linux terminal).
  2. Power up your Chromebook Pixel with both USB drives plugged in, and press Ctrl-L at the “OS Verification is off” screen to access the Legacy BIOS. Press Esc, then hit the appropriate key to boot the live USB you prepared earlier.

    Specifying the "mem=4G" boot argument on the Chromebook Pixel
    Specifying the “mem=4G” boot argument on the Chromebook Pixel
  3. You’ll be taken to a console-like screen titled “Fedora Live.” With “Start Fedora Live” highlighted, press Tab to specify additional boot arguments. Type (without quotes) “mem=4G” and press enter.
  4. Click “Install to Hard Drive” when greeted with the “Welcome to Fedora” splash screen. Choose the language of your choice, and press “Continue.”

    "Welcome to Fedora" splash screen
    “Welcome to Fedora” splash screen
  5. The “Installation Summary” screen will now appear. Update your locale in “Date & Time” if it is not correct, then click “Installation Destination.” Now carefully, choose the drive which matches the description of your target USB stick (not the Sandisk SSD, which stores Chrome OS). Click “Done” in the upper left corner.
  6. A pop-up will appear, allowing to choose automatic or custom partitioning, in addition to a partition scheme. We changed the “Partition scheme: “ drop box to “Standard Partition.” If you want to adjust the size of the boot or swap partitions, you should choose “I want to review/modify my disk partitions before continuing.” Otherwise, it’s fine to accept the default and click “Continue.”
    Fedora setup – Installation Summary screen
    Fedora setup – Installation Summary screen
    • Note: If you want to save approximately 1.5 GB, you can delete the swap partition and add it to “/” (the system partition). 4 GB of RAM on the Pixel is enough to perform everyday tasks on Fedora without dipping into virtual memory.
    • Note II: While you can also shrink the boot partition, it may cause future pre-upgrades to fail if it is less than 500 MB. Therefore, we recommend to leave it as-is.
  7. Once complete with partitioning, you will be returned to the “Installation Summary” for a final check before the process begins. If everything is in order, click “Begin Installation.”
  8. While you wait for the install to complete, you will need to set a Root Password and create a user account. Once the copying files and post-installation setup tasks are all done, exit the wizard and shut down the live instance of Fedora.

    Fedora install progress
    Fedora setup progress
  9. Allow the Pixel to fully power down – then unplug your live (installation) USB. Power up, with only the drive containing the newly installed instance of Fedora plugged in. Use the same steps as earlier to access the legacy BIOS and boot from USB.
  10. Congratulations! You now have Fedora installed on a USB drive, for your Chromebook Pixel.

Workarounds for Known Issues

  • Headphone detection doesn’t work – Open a Terminal window, type in “alsamixer” (without quotes), and press Enter. Press the Brightness Down shortcut key on the Pixel keyboard to select the Intel sound card. Then, press the right arrow key until an option labelled “HP/Speaker Auto Detection” is labelled. Press the “M” key to enable it, then Esc to exit alsamixer.
  • The Pixel’s shortcut keys don’t work (partial workaround) – With Fedora, you can map keyboard keys and create custom shortcuts. Open Settings > Keyboard, then click the Shortcuts tab. The Esc and Power keys are system reserved and cannot be mapped. Having said that, Fedora recognizes the top row on the Pixel’s keyboard as Fn keys, with the Back key being F1 and the Volume Up key being F10 (there is no F11 and F12). The Back key (F1) also reserved for a shortcut to Gnome help, but the other 9 keys can be mapped.
    • Sound: Open the “Sound and Media” area in the dialog, and map the keys to mute, up, and down. They will show up as F8, F9, and F10 respectively.
    • Brightness: Making the brightness keys work requires installation of the “xbrightness” package. Open a Terminal window, become root with “sudo su”, then type “yum install xbacklight” and “Y”, when prompted to confirm. Then, return to the settings dialog, and click “Custom Shortcuts.” Using the “+” symbol near the bottom of the dialog, add these two shortcuts.
      • Name: Increase Brightness | Command: xbacklight -inc 10
      • Name: Decrease Brightness | Command: xbacklight -dec 10
  • Other (e.g. no Flash in Firefox) – refer to the Unofficial Fedora FAQ.

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